Dr Josephine Wirdnam, principal dentist at Burgess Hill Dental, explains why the success of her practice sale was reliant on the agent understanding her vision for retirement and the future of the business.
Which consultant at Dental Elite did you work with? Were they in regular contact?
I worked with Leah Turner and her team. There was a lot of helpful input from Sue Humphrey. They were in regular contact throughout the process.
What made you choose the offer that was accepted?
Legacy was really central to me. I have worked at Burgess Hill Dental since 1985 and for me, it was not just a business or a financial vehicle for my retirement, although this was obviously important. It was crucial that, if possible, I passed the practice onto people I trusted who would continue to value the amazing team of people who work there and provide the community with the highest standard of dental care. This meant I didn’t put the practice onto the open market. Instead, I sold it to two of my associates.
I would say this does not make the process easy but I felt I was doing the right thing for the practice and for me. Leah was confident that given free rein, she could have achieved a higher sale price than the offer I accepted but she respected my decision.
On reflection, what was the most challenging time during your practice sale?
The sale was due to complete after quite a protracted build up to it on 28th February 2020, but this didn’t happen. This was in no way a reflection of Dental Elite’s teamwork, but rather highlighted severe deficiencies with the professional advisors on the buyers’ side. Then COVID-19 struck and we were thrown into a total lockdown with complete uncertainty about the future.
Mentally, the most difficult time during the sale was taking my head out of retirement and all the plans I had for the year – including attending the 2020 Tokyo Olympics – and leading the practice through a challenging 12 months. The sale went on hold until my team and I had restarted work, before Leah and the Dental Elite team very promptly picked it up again. The deal eventually went through on 26th February 2021 – a year bar two days late.
A lot of people will cite due diligence as being the most challenging aspect of a practice sale. This was not the case for me, as I was lucky to have the support of a supremely well-organised, calm practice manager who was in my “selling loop” and we invested in a decent scanner. You just need to get on with it – Nike’s “Just do it” slogan comes to mind here.
What advice would you give future vendors?
Firstly, use experienced professionals to help you. Don’t even think about doing it yourself or even cutting corners to save money. I was lucky with my choice of agent, solicitor and accountant. I trusted them. Use people you feel comfortable with, but there is still an element of luck to the process. Most dental practice owners go through a sale just once so we never really have the opportunity to learn from our mistakes and do it differently, so make sure you ask questions, read reviews and speak to past clients of your chosen agent. Moreover, be prepared to provide information requested swiftly. Get all your ducks in a row. Be honest and be patient.
How did you find the agent buffer between solicitors, buyers and sellers?
This was fairly seamless between agent and solicitor – they were on the same page all the way through the process. However, between the agent and the buyers, there were some difficulties. Initially, I wanted Dental Elite to provide distance and a cushion between me and the buyers as I was working with them day-to-day, but eventually found there were times when direct communication between buyer and seller facilitated the process. Equally, if I wanted, Dental Elite was always there to speak and negotiate on my behalf. The team always had my back.
Why did you choose Dental Elite over other agents?
I spoke to several other agents and there were two strong contenders. Some agents didn’t understand my practice and I at all, and asked inane questions whilst providing advice I didn’t ask for. I had created a little bit of slack in the system in order to reduce stress on my team, greatly decreasing the need for an agency. I didn’t feel this was money wasted but other agents certainly did and told me about it! However, Dental Elite came out on top because they valued my practice financially higher than other agents.
I liked Leah and felt she knew what she was talking about, particularly with regard to the current market and geographical area. She really understood my practice and I very quickly, and appreciated what was important to me. She also made me laugh – believe me, someone who can inject a little humour into what is inevitably quite a long, daunting process is incredibly valuable. I would like to thank Leah, Sue and the rest of the Dental Elite team for helping me cross the finish line, ready to start the next chapter of my life.